Skip to main content

Block Grant

Volume 573: debated on Wednesday 8 January 2014

1. If he will estimate the cumulative real-terms change to the Welsh block grant over the present Parliament. (901763)

On what is a sad morning for the House, I am sure that colleagues on both sides would also wish me to mention the passing in December of the right hon. Lord Roberts of Conwy, who served the Welsh Office with such distinction for so many years. He was a doughty champion for Wales and the Welsh language, and I am sure that many Members on both sides will regret his passing.

The protections placed on health and education have insulated the Welsh Government’s resource budget from the extent of reductions faced by many UK Departments. In addition, the Welsh Government’s capital budget will increase in real terms by 8.4% next year and 2.4% the year after.

Does the Secretary of State not recognise that the Welsh Government’s budget has been cut by 10% since 2010—a cut of £1.6 billion? Their capital budget to date has been cut by a third, which has impacted horrendously on front-line services. In my Bridgend constituency alone, that has meant £30 million-worth of cuts in front-line services. Does the Secretary of State not recognise the damage of these cuts to the people of Wales?

All parts of the United Kingdom are having to bear their part in repairing the economic damage that was sustained as a result of the downturn in 2008. However, I am sure the hon. Lady would recognise that since 2010 the United Kingdom Government have provided an additional £737 million to the Welsh Government, and it is up to the Welsh Government to live within their means.

Given that the UK Government have given extra money in cash terms to the Welsh Assembly in the form of its block grant, does the Secretary of State find it as extraordinary as I do that the Welsh Assembly has imposed drastic cuts on local authorities across Wales that are bound to lead to increases in council taxes and reductions in public services?

That is ultimately a matter for the Welsh Government, but it is noteworthy that, whereas council taxpayers in England are benefiting from a council tax freeze, that is not happening in Wales. Perhaps that is something the Welsh Government should be attending to.

May I first associate myself fully with the words of tribute to the late, greatly respected right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins), and to the late Lord Roberts of Conwy?

I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree that reform of the Barnett formula is still an issue about which we are all very concerned. We in Plaid Cymru have campaigned about it for more than 25 years. It is interesting that the Labour party is now in favour of reforming Barnett, which it did nothing about for 13 years. In fact, when it was in government, it denied the existence of the problem. Does the right hon. Gentleman have any views on that issue?

It is generally recognised that the Barnett formula does not have an indefinite duration. However, it is the priority of this Government to ensure that the public finances are stabilised, and that is what we intend to do.

Which does the right hon. Gentleman think is worse—the self-serving preconditions set by the Labour party to block further devolution, or the failure of his Government to propose the full tax-varying powers contained in the cross-party Silk commission recommendations?

Barnett consequentials and, indeed, funding from the European Union have been key components of spending in Wales for many years. What representations has the Secretary of State made about Barnett consequentials and European funding to address the devastation that has occurred in recent days along the Welsh coast, not least in Ceredigion, but also in the constituencies of many other hon. Members?

I have had many conversations with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Clearly, Aberystwyth has suffered extreme damage as a consequence of the storms of the past few days, and I assure my hon. Friend that, if any additional funding is provided, Barnett consequentials will follow in the usual manner.